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We have a group of parents in our setting who keep giving their children the same meal until they eat it. So if they don't eat their breakfast it's kept for lunch and then possibly dinner. This is happening on a regular basis, and becoming more frequent.

 

My manager seems to think this isn't an issue, but I'm getting really distressed about it. The parents are all very open about it and often come in saying "You might have a bit of an issue getting him to eat his lunch because it's last nights dinner, but try and make him eat it because he wouldn't eat it for breakfast" or "Can you give him two portions of snack please because he hasn't had a proper meal since breakfast yesterday"

 

This issue had totally taken over my mind, and is actually starting to make me feel guilty for eating!! I'm constantly worrying about when these children last had a proper meal. I know most of them allow their child to eat fruit if they haven't eaten their main meals during the day, but fruit isn't enough to sustain a child for a day!

 

We're based in quite a well off area, and I know this group of parents have their childrens best interests at heart. The parents do a lot of activites (craft, dancing, reading, writing etc) outside of the setting, and generally the children are all well looked after.

 

I totally understand where they are coming from, as far as they can see they're teaching their children that they have to eat what they're given etc etc.

 

But I'm worried about the effects this may have on the children in the long run.

This is going to sound really over the top, but I'm particularly worried that these children are going to start using food as a "power" over their parents, if they learn that not eating their food irriates their parents then I'm worried they might gradually stop eating or only eat as little as they can.

I'm also concerned that the children will start to get worried/anxious/distressed/nervous etc etc about having to eat tonights dinner for breakfast tomorrow, as possibly lunch as well, that they won't be able to sleep properly.

And the fact that a chlid who hasn't eaten his dinner at 5pm on Monday, and then not had any breakfast on Tuesday and isn't having snack until 11am, hasn't eaten for 18 hours! and even then it's just a snack, rather than a meal. So it could be atleast 20 hours until they have a meal.

 

Has anybody been in this situation before?

 

I'm also wondering if we should be aware that a chlid hasn't had any breakfast this morning, or had no dinner last night?

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

 

Lluna

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I think you'd be suprised how many parents do this. Not that I'm saying it's a lot - just probably more than you'd think!

 

"Can you give him two portions of snack please because he hasn't had a proper meal since breakfast yesterday"

I can't believe a parent would say this to you?! :o It is really not your job to give their child extra food because they aren't being fed at home. Although I think I would be inclined to persuade the child to eat lots of snack, pick the biggest apple in the bowl etc xD

 

But I'm worried about the effects this may have on the children in the long run.

This is going to sound really over the top, but I'm particularly worried that these children are going to start using food as a "power" over their parents, if they learn that not eating their food irriates their parents then I'm worried they might gradually stop eating or only eat as little as they can.

This doesn't seem over the top at all... Especially once you think about the fact that these children are living in a world where they have very little control over what happens to them. Sure they might get to choose what clothes they want to wear today, or choose what story to read, but really all the big major discisions are made by their parents.

 

I will watch this thread with interest as have had a few incidents like this in the past. And like you, it's weighed on my mind for a long time.

 

Maybe you could do a healthy eating week/month/term. Do lots of food activities, talk about why we need food and what food does for us etc. Then you could produce some leaflets to give to all the parents that reinforce what you're doing and maybe suggest some follow on activites for them to do together at home? This way the group of parents you have won't feel targetted because everyone will be getting them.

 

I'm also wondering if we should be aware that a chlid hasn't had any breakfast this morning, or had no dinner last night?

I actually think this is quite important to know. If a child hasn't eaten since lunchtime the previous day they are likely to suffer the consequences;

Headaches, Dehydration, Hunger, etc.

You can then encourage them to eat all their snack, and drink lots of water.

 

I hope I've helped in some way? You'll get a lot more responces tomorrow!

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FIRST STEPS mealtimes advice

 

(scroll down page and select mealtimes for a useful pdf advice sheet for parents)

 

goodness, that is quiet upsetting. it sounds like a battle of wills more than the children not liking the food that's been given. hope this behaviour doesn't filter out into other areas.

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Have I understood this properly - a parent brings in last nights dinner for a child to eat at lunch time even though she's tried to get him to eat it at breakfast time.

I too would have a huge issue with that - what about food safety? and who would want to eat dinner at breakfast anyway.

Soemtimes I think more and more parents whose children are at daycare are opting out of instilling boundaries for their children and are expecting staff to do all the hard work. not very helpful for children at all.

I think that I would print out the link jeanine has uploaded and give that to the parents. I would also suggest to parents that they bring in fresh food for their children to eat - if a child has refused it twice they are not likely to eat it a third time. what about offering parents menu suggestions to try new foods with their children.

i think you're right to be concerned

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i certainly would not be happy at serving food which has been potentially been reheated twice already, from a health and safety view it would be unsafe to reheat again and serve.. or do they intend child to eat day old food twice refused cold.

 

to reheat it you could be opening yourselves up to issues should the child become ill after eating it.. if they ever did... even if the parent had supplied it with instructions.

 

this was one of the reasons we never had food to heat up for lunches at pre-school, cold lunch supplied by parents had to have cool pack etc...

 

perhaps a new policy needs writing on provision of food to be eaten in the setting.. make it appropriate to the needs of the children.

 

H&S aside it is also teaching children that they can use food to control adults/others... not boding well for future with potential of eating disorders...

 

we do offer additional food if a parent comments that they had little at breakfast etc..children will eat when hungry and if that is later in the day so be it...( I cannot face breakfast early in the morning, preferring to eat after 9 ) but we did have the opposite with one parent who told us not to feed her child until lunch as she had not had any breakfast, must admit we did feed her the usual healthy snack.

 

Inge

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Gosh - this is just auful - no wonder we hae so many children who eating disorders - from my own personal experience, I never ever made a big thing about food with my children - even if they did not eat their dinner, I always allowed them to have a yoghurt or a piece of fruit for afterwards - I would always keep their dinner for a while after in case they came back to it, but it was thrown away that evening - my children eat everything fruit/veg etc etc - I think we need to educate parents to ensure that they do not use food as a punishment or use food to eat to depict how we are feeling ie "have a cake/sweet it will make you feel better etc etc" - lots of good advice given already - policy I think is the best way forward - so just my view - good luck sorting this one out, I would be very concerend.

 

Dot :o

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Back in the sixties my Mum tried this with my big sister who learned to use it as a power tool against my Mum. She used to just go next door and eat with them instead - she certainly didn't let herself starve and Mum was the one suffering! Gwen certainly made sure she didn't - and admits it now! If it didn't work then, with children who were certainly less 'smart' than today's children it sure as billy-oh won't work now! She was always a very picky eater and Mum took her to the doctor about it - she said "Al she'll eat is bread and jam and cornflakes" so the doctor said "We'll let her eat that then whilst you have what you are having, it certainly won't do her any harm" She had that for Christmas dinner too, I remember. It lasted a month or so then she got bored with it and started eating what we had.

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I can't believe a parent would say this to you?! :o It is really not your job to give their child extra food because they aren't being fed at home. Although I think I would be inclined to persuade the child to eat lots of snack, pick the biggest apple in the bowl etc xD

I have often said to the parents no your child will be given the same amount of snack as everybody else But then actually given them a bit more. I don't want to be saying to parents yeah sure I'll give your chlid more food because I don't want to be seen as thinking this situation is okay.

 

 

(pdf in quote box removed due to copyright-see jeanine post above=Peggy)

Thanks, that's great.

 

i certainly would not be happy at serving food which has been potentially been reheated twice already, from a health and safety view it would be unsafe to reheat again and serve.. or do they intend child to eat day old food twice refused cold.

 

to reheat it you could be opening yourselves up to issues should the child become ill after eating it.. if they ever did... even if the parent had supplied it with instructions.

 

this was one of the reasons we never had food to heat up for lunches at pre-school, cold lunch supplied by parents had to have cool pack etc...

Sorry I should have said, it's usually things like sandwiches, quiches, sometimes things like omlettes etc. All cold!

 

 

Thank you for your advice. I will certainly raise some of your ideas at our meeting soon.

Lluna

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removal of copyright document
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She was always a very picky eater and Mum took her to the doctor about it - she said "Al she'll eat is bread and jam and cornflakes" so the doctor said "We'll let her eat that then whilst you have what you are having, it certainly won't do her any harm" She had that for Christmas dinner too, I remember. It lasted a month or so then she got bored with it and started eating what we had.

My eldest survives on a diet of bread & butter, rice, pasta, vegetables, cornnfakes, rice crispies and gallons of milk; this has lasted with her for about the last 8 years, I'm still waiting for her to get bored of it. I certainly wouldn't keep offering the same meal over and over again if it was originally refused, though I do remember reading that this was a recommended 'technique' many years ago.

Karrie

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I think the parent would have to be really 'hard-core' to not give a child the option to eat something other than the refused food. Not many parents I know, myself included, would be able to do that, but that wouldn't mean offering sweets and biscuits either. On the other hand my 2 1/2 year old nephew can go for days eating just yoghurt, plain white rice and plain pasta, but only with my sister. With anyone else he'll tuck happily into whatever is offered, he is already using food as a tool against my sister who tries desperately not to give in but relents after a few days on his 'white diet',(his 'reward' is toys),because her stress levels go through the roof.

Karrie

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On the other hand my 2 1/2 year old nephew can go for days eating just yoghurt, plain white rice and plain pasta, but only with my sister. With anyone else he'll tuck happily into whatever is offered, he is already using food as a tool against my sister who tries desperately not to give in but relents after a few days on his 'white diet',(his 'reward' is toys),because her stress levels go through the roof.

Karrie

 

I have to say I am shocked at this tactic. I actually read this thread last night and it has bugged me on and off all day.

 

It does seem like the parents are expecting staff to deal with and hopefully fix it, regardless of the effect it has on their child, staff and the other children in the setting observing this all going on. While we are all responsible for teaching children the benefits of healthy eating and must also respect the parents wishes, surely through trying to feed this child different food in front of other children, be it healthy or not, other children may watch this child refuse to eat and copy this tactic themselves.

 

It has happened in our setting. We have a child who doesnt like butter. Another child who previously took butter is now copying this child and refuses to eat anything with butter on, although he still eats it at home.

 

I can also appreciate that it is the parents wishes, but if this child were to fall ill due to food poisoning, would the parents then turn the blame on you, even though they had been quite insistant that their child eat the food that they brought for him/her that morning???

 

I certainly wouldn't want to eat food that I had refused the previous evening, even if it had been stored correctly and can be eaten cold.

 

My son used to refuse to eat potatoes, bread etc unless it was the same make or made the same way as nana and grandad made them. As they mind him for us on a regular basis while I work, it was all too easy for him to compare the food and complain. I played him at his own game and discovered what they used and how it was cooked. So I tried this for a couple of weeks and then resorted back to what I usually use or cook in a certain way. He has yet to mention the difference, even though some of then are obvious e.g. brown bread instead of white. He even enjoys watching me cook now and I let him help whenever possible.

 

I wonder, like my son and aliamch's nephew, do these children eat ok in other peoples houses?? Would it be worth finding out?

 

Of course now we have other food issues. James, being his father's son he has inherited a thing called 'being awkward for awkwards sake!! He is now trying the "I'm not that hungry" trick every so often and is told that if he isn't hungry enough to eat his dinner then he can't be hungry enough to dessert! (dessert in our house is a yoghurt or rice during the week with fruit and a 'proper' dessert only on a Sunday!!) Works like a charm. He then eats his dinner and gets dessert and a big thankyou as well!!

 

The only other problem we had was when hubby's sister took him to her house for tea twice when Martin was in hospital, he didnt eat a thing for her and to be honest I dont blame him, I tend not to eat there myself unless its a takeaway!! :oxD:(

 

Have just realised I am now rambling on about things that have nothing to do with this post, apologies to all, I am child free for a couple of hours and actually have the time to ramble!! :(

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This is indeed an interesting topic and I am sure we all have examples of how our own children have been 'faddy' eaters at one time or another, for short or even extended periods of time. I find it interesting that you say it is a 'group' of parents using this 'technique' rather than an individual. I wonder has one of them had advice from elsewhere, maybe a health visitor, or read from a 'parent' website, to use this technique and this person has shared it with her friends, thus all deciding to 'give it a go'.

 

I personally think that children can survive longer than we think without a 'main' meal, as long as they have fluids and some small intake of food, thus many parents are advised 'not to worry, you're child will eat when he / she is hungry' (this advice given to parents who's children refuse food altogether). I think all responses show that this is not an ideal situation but I do think it is one of those situations where our own 'values & beliefs' can impact on our emotional responses to these situations.

This is where we need to be sensitive to the 'parents practice' which as said is 'intended' to be in the childs best interest, it is just not the most suitable method to use for the required goal.

 

The main reasons this method is not suitable has been stated;

 

1/ Hygiene / Health, even if cold, refrigerated foods (such as the butter/spread) deteriorate once above fridge temperature, thus possibly causing a risk of gastroenteritis.

 

2/ Emotional risk, food and power (adults against children and vise versa)

 

3/ What messages this method gives to other children in the setting, peer role modeling, and it is not a positive behaviour management method.

 

4/ Not yet mentioned, Positive behaviour management. The settings policy for behaviour will most probably state that behaviour is managed in a way that is appropriatte to the childs level of understanding, that adults will not disempower or use threats towards children. There will be a no bullying policy. Using adult 'power' to give or take away food is bullying, the parents will not see it as this, and how this is explained will need a lot of sensitive tactful dialogue. There is also the consideration that children of this age need sanctions that occur 'at the time' of the misbehaviour. So to carry the sanction over such a long period of time is not in consideration of the childs developmental stage. Another example of this would be if a child breaks a rule at preschool at say 10am and a sanction such as time out is given, the preschool would not then expect Mum or dad to repeat this 'sanction' again once the child got home from preschool. ( I hope that makes sense).

 

So, what can Lluna do about this situation?

 

First you will need to get your manager 'on board' in recognising that what the parents are asking of the staff is contravening the settings policies and that you need her support in informing the parents that you cannot carry out their requests because;

1/ contravenes H&S policy

2/ contravenes positive behaviour management policy.

 

Then, I would suggest you gather some information from health professionals, your own resources such as EYFS (re positive behaviour, unique child etc) and arrange to talk with these parents, individually. I'd suggest go on the 'unique child' aspect and offer to discuss individual childrens health needs regarding food and ways that you can support each other between home and setting that will not contravene the settings policies. It's not enough to just say, we can't or won't do that here. As originally stated the parents do actually have their childs best interest at heart they are just having difficulties in finding the best way to support their childrens development in these areas, food (Being healthy) and emotional development (control/power).

 

Involving all the children in, as previously suggested, a Healthy eating focus, plus some cooking activities etc will help bring the 'fun' back into food for these children. Talk to the parents about considering giving the children 'choice' but the choices are 'managed' by the parent, ie; You can eat this or this, which one would you like to choose. (just giving 2 choices but still enabling the child to feel that he/she has some control in what they choose to eat).

 

Good luck with this, I hope that in the first instance that your manager supports you with your concerns.

 

Peggy

 

p.s. Just had a thought, maybe find out from the parents why they chose this strategy, where they heard about it, what else have they tried? try and start the support from the parents perspective. :o

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First you will need to get your manager 'on board' in recognising that what the parents are asking of the staff is contravening the settings policies and that you need her support in informing the parents that you cannot carry out their requests because;

1/ contravenes H&S policy

2/ contravenes positive behaviour management policy.

 

Where would we stand if we hadn't been told it was yesterdays dinner until after the session when we say to mum, "Oh little Johnny didn't eat any of his lunch today..." ? :o

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Where would we stand if we hadn't been told it was yesterdays dinner until after the session when we say to mum, "Oh little Johnny didn't eat any of his lunch today..." ? :(

 

 

Lucky little Johnny didn't eat his lunch today, he may have got tummy ache :o (hopefully he would have accessed your wonderful FRESH snacks and milk during the session, so wouldn't be too hungry xD )

 

No, we cannot be held responsible for the hygiene of food provided by parents, only to promote the use of ice packs, or to provide ice packs for lunchboxes without one etc ( a particular requirement from one of my Ofsted Inspections).

 

All we can do is encourage children, in a positive manner, to eat what is provided. However, it would not be 'in a positive manner' if we knew the food was 'stale'. But this can only be addressed if we know prior to lunchtime.

 

Peggy

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